Friday, September 26, 2008

Microfinance and Me?

As the world of small scale loans to developing world entrepreneurs continues to seek increasingly effective ways to engage new donors and take advantage of the potential of the internet and the decentralized nature of a digital world there continue to be new possibilities opening up.

Thanks to Mark Petersen at Bridgeway I can let you know that the relatively intimate and immediate philanthropy that Kiva has pioneered has now been adopted by my favourite microfinance organization.

Check this out, and opt in.

Well done Opportunity!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Call and Response

Last May, in a hotel room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale I was strongly impacted by a pre-release trailer for a movie called "Call and Response".

There is a growing awareness of the ugly reality of human trafficking in our time, particularly the sexual exploitation of children slaves.
Please see and circulate this trailer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Managing Expectations

Years ago I interviewed for a job and during the process I was told the salary was based on the pay grid of school teachers in the region. That was quite appealing, but the actual salary offered was quite a bit less. It seems the salary grid was a basis only in terms of being something they looked at, cut down by 25%, and then modified by several other factors. It was a disappointing aspect of an otherwise very exciting opportunity.

In the years since that event I have encouraged many young adults when they pursue work in nonprofit and ministry roles that the taboo discussion about compensation should be surfaced very early in the process and with frank openness. Not doing that creates the potential for people to invest significant time and energy in a recruiting process that ultimately becomes pointless and frustrating when something so simple as dollars is finally revealed.

One of the causes is a cultural expectation in church circles that is someone is "called" to a role they will trust God to provide for them. To even ask the salary is somehow inappropriate and unspiritual. After all, we don't do this kind of work for the money...

Just once I'd love to hear a candidate turn that around and ask the search committee if they are willing to be the ones to act in faith and place a generous full year's salary in a designated account because they trust God to provide the needed resources.

This does relate to Catalyst. When we are approached by leaders and organizations who are interested in applying for our funding there is some risk that I can give the impression that we are likely to offer support when we really are not. I realize that in our current funding cycle I may have done this inadvertently, simply because our strategies are becoming more apparent as we work through applications.

Today in a conversation with a new contact I was complimented for my honesty when I explained that I thought it unlikely that we would be interested in supporting the projects under discussion. Apparently it isn't common for donors to do this.

It should be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Out of Office

The Catalyst office will be closed for a couple weeks while we celebrate the arrival of Amy Eden Wignall.
We will be returning messages after September 23rd.

For a couple more pics go to my personal blog

Monday, September 8, 2008

Picking Favourites

We are partway through the process of evaluating our applicants from this funding cycle. It has been a large learning experience. In a few weeks I will post some of what we've learned in the hope of becoming better at it next time around.

One of the challenges at times in our discussions has been in explaining what it is about certain applications that appeals to us. There are obvious factors: people we know, those who have clearly done their homework on us, ones that presented their request effectively, those that are intuitively a fit for our strategy and direction...
But there's also something else, something that I couldn't easily explain around our table but that is more clear to me after reading an excellent article by Andy Crouch this afternoon. I am enthused about supporting and partnering with people who are engaging with our culture in ways that involve creating and cultivating.

I've had Andy's book on my shelf for a couple months at the urging of Mark Petersen, but haven't taken the time to read it yet. That will have to change. In trying to be strategic about the use of the finances at our disposal we need to be thinking about the issues raised here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why Charity Ultimately Fails

The word Catalyst gets used in several nonprofits and ministries. One that I can recommend is the Catalyst conference and all the ancillary elements they've added. I've enjoyed their podcasts for a couple years and am disappointed that I won't be available to accompany a group from our area to Atlanta next month to see it all live. It's definitely on my hit list for 2009.

One of the founders of our foundation sent me this article from the Catalyst website that explains with clear and simple illustrations why we're becoming involved with microfinance in our efforts to support relief and development for the world's poor, rather than traditional charitable efforts. We realize there are times and situations where immediate needs require free donations, but by and large we are more and more convinced that there are better ways to help in the long run.
we also hope that the time we spend researching and understanding options and strategies can help others to begin to explore some of the organizations we're enthusiastic about.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


One of the factors we consider in evaluating grant applications is whether the proposal and the organization are scaleable. By that, I mean is there the possibility for the same system to be repeated either larger or smaller, ultimately serving and reaching more people.
That might simply mean making it possible for Catalyst to fund a portion of the requested funds allowing the organization to pursue their vision to a reduced degree initially; but ideally it means that what is being done can flex and grow with minimal costly restructuring.
This article talks about the realization by an American mega-church pastor that what works in developed urban centres in the Western world isn't scaleable in most places; and the way it has affected him and his organization.

Scaleability is rooted in the development of multiple leaders and simple, effective systems. It usually involves a return to the central historic origins of the vision and the willingness of the power brokers to open their hands and lead through influence rather than control.